As a child, it always felt like all our weekly meals were fish in some form or another. Fish Curry, Fish Mince, Fried fish, Roe, conger bones, ‘bite’ mackerel soup, Tuna Plo’, Fish in Batter and of course Fish Cakes. I remember watching my nanny standing in her small kitchen rolling ‘bite’ fish cakes into perfect round patties rocking from side to side as she hummed hymns as she worked. I think of her singing in her kitchen every time I’m making fishcakes in my kitchen, even now 30 years later, as if it was yesterday. Papa, Daddy and my uncles would always be fishing on the rocks and on a boat. And I can remember my Dad would bring home soldiers, Jacks, Grouper and sometimes conger in a big blue bucket for my Mum to make all kinds of delicious fish meals.
Fishcakes were always my favourite. Mummy would serve it with onion gravy and string beans for dinner and any that were left over were used for my school lunch the next day. I can remember as a kid loving fishcake sandwiches. Fresh bread from Solomon’s bakery, a fishcake mashed up and smothered in salad cream….hmmmm makes my mouth water just thinking about it.
The taste of a hot fishcake straight from the frying pan is a food delight, and an underrated part of Saint culture. I realised the special place Fishcakes hold in Saint Helenian culture the day I organised a demonstration of how to make them Saint style to a group of visiting yachtsmen. People watched fascinated as the herds were mixed in with the mashed potato, and heeps of fresh fish. The simple process of shaping the fishcakes, then directly into some hot oil – beautiful! So fresh and true to its ingredients.
I still struggle to shape the fishcake as well as my Mum, or Emma-Jane. There is still one or three which break away upon frying. I like to think of those as the cook’s reward.